One thing Bledsoe already likes about his new coach is that he's not Belichick. Though Bledsoe won't get into specifics—"He was the coach, I was the quarterback, and that was the extent of it," Bledsoe says of their relationship—sources close to the passer say the ill will stems from what happened in mid-November after Bledsoe was cleared to return from his injury. Sources say Bledsoe believes he was told by Belichick that he'd be worked into the lineup; the next week the coach announced that Brady, who had won five of his eight starts, would keep the job for the rest of the season.
Belichick says he told Bledsoe, who had been practicing with the scout team for several weeks, that he'd "work you back in there," so he could get some reps with the offense. "We did that for a week," Belichick says, "but after that I felt we hadn't prepared our offense as well as we needed to. I have a lot of respect for Drew, but what it came down to was creating a competition versus getting the starting quarterback ready."
Whatever went down, Bledsoe has never been more motivated. That was apparent in January in Pittsburgh, when he came off the bench to relieve an injured Brady in the second quarter of the AFC Championship Game and, obviously charged, threw for 102 yards and a touchdown in New England's 24-17 victory. "That was the old Drew, and it's because he had a chip on his shoulder," one Patriot says. "He hadn't been pushing himself the last couple of years. Losing his job was a humbling experience for him."
In Buffalo the future is Bledsoe. As he dined at a tavern near the stadium last Thursday afternoon, nibbling on—what else?—extra-spicy buffalo wings and getting love from a car salesman ("We've got to get you in a new Beemer"), a real estate agent ("I've got the perfect house for the new hero in town") and a barrage of rabid fans ("We'll be the loud ones you hear when you walk through the tunnel"), the grateful quarterback looked ready to suit up. "When something like this happens, it's all unbridled enthusiasm," he said. "Well, I'm just as excited as everyone else."
Can he fix it?